From Russia, with caring

Program: The state agriculture department brings the visitors for six months to work as interns in the U.S. horse industry.

February 23, 2003|By Elizabeth A. Shack | Elizabeth A. Shack,CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

CHESAPEAKE CITY - Like the newborn foals she treats, Olga Smolenskaia-Souvorova is seeing Maryland for the first time.

Smolenskaia-Souvorova is one of several members of Russia's horse industry who will spend months at horse farms and racetracks across the state this year, learning how the American industry operates and contributing their own ideas.

"We'll try to see and learn everything that is going on," said Smolenskaia-Souvorova, an intern from Moscow. "I don't think that six months will be a long time."

In Russia, the medicine is different, said Smolenskaia-Souvorova, a veterinarian since 1979 who has worked with horses for more than six years.

At Winbak Farm in Cecil County, she helps care for the mares and foals, walking from the interns' dormitory to the foaling barns every day. She and Anna Kocherga, the other Russian intern at Winbak, do a variety of work there.

Smolenskaia-Souvorova said she is learning a lot - 22 foals had been born by the first week of this month - and expects to be very busy later in the spring, as nine to 10 foals are expected to born a night from the 321 mares still pregnant.

So far, six interns have arrived in Maryland, and up to five more are expected sometime this spring, said Nancy Wallace, director of international marketing at the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

The interns applied to the Department of Agriculture under a grant funded by the U.S. Commerce Department's Special American Business Internship Training program, which aims to improve business relations between this country and Russia, Wallace said.

Carolyn Green, owner of Green Willow Farms in Carroll County, said she had expected the interns to have better English skills. Even though her intern, Moscow veterinarian Anton Berezine, speaks quite broken English, however, "we manage to understand each other."

Berezine, who said he is working with the foals, will be at Green Willow for six months, through the end of the breeding season, Green said.

Green became interested in the Russian horse industry when she traveled there with other Maryland breeders, owners, and racetrack officials and saw the horses.

"They looked wonderful," she said.

Winbak Farms owner Joe Thomson was impressed with the horses on that trip as well, said farm manager Bill Gerweck.

"When he came back we were told that there was a program that allowed an exchange of knowledge," Gerweck said.

Thomson is dedicated to new technology and knowledge in areas from veterinary procedures and medicines to equine psychology and nutrition, said Winbak operations manager Tony Lazzaro.

The farm has done its own nutrition study and is involved in two studies of an equine virus, he said.

Gerweck said Winbak interns Kocherga and Smolenskaia-Souvorova are working closely with the farm's staff veterinarians. Because some of the Russian practices are "very rudimentary" and many things are different, such as names of drugs, the interns work directly under the veterinarians' supervision.

Many of the interns said they were glad for the chance to be here.

"We're very happy and we learn a lot here," said Olga Arkhipova, who has been working with veterinarian Roger Scullin for two months. "The vet is on a very higher level here."

But Lazzaro said the staff of Winbak wants to learn from the interns as much as the interns learn from the staff.

"These people are coming with new ideas and thoughts," he said. "We're a better farm because they're here."

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